Are Christians Redefining Sin in the Name of Love?
Many Christians today seek to love those who feel judged by the words they find in the Bible. People search the Scriptures in an attempt to prove that certain beliefs they want to hold—or certain actions they want to keep doing—are okay in God’s sight. Behaviors Christians previously and universally viewed as sinful according to the Bible are now increasingly tolerated, accepted, and even celebrated.
Yet, things that make us feel good are not always good for us. In her Gospel Coalition article, “Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak Truth,” Rosaria Butterfield writes:
The supernatural power that comes with being born again means that where I once had a single desire—one that says if it feels good, it must be who I really am—I now have twin desires that war within me: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17). And this war doesn’t end until Glory.
The Christian life is a struggle, because now there is new spiritual life where there was once just the flesh. This flesh, which God originally made good, is now corrupted because of Adam’s disobedience and fall in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16–17; 3:1–19). The Holy Spirit now indwells all believers and is doing the work of sanctification in their lives. This is a lifelong process of dying to the flesh and living unto God.
It is not easy to give up the things in life that we love, but if they are opposed to God’s will, this is what Christ calls us to do:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt. 10:37–38)
Love and keeping Jesus’ commands go together. Jesus told his disciples:
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Focusing on lovingly affirming others in their desired lifestyles seems appealing at first. In the long run, however, we do great harm to people when we affirm them in life choices that the Bible calls sinful. Declaring that something is not sinful because of our careful, nuanced study and argumentation doesn’t mean we have done such research properly and are correct in our conclusions.
We can believe whatever we want about anything, but that doesn’t make it true. Our efforts to justify wrong behavior go all the way back to the garden of Eden as well (Gen. 3:1–13). As the preacher stated in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The apostle Paul points out how true love and truth are inextricably entwined:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor. 13:4–6)
Butterfield reminds us of the priority of love in the words we speak to others:
On the biblical side, we often have failed to offer loving relationships and open doors to our homes and hearts, openness so unhindered that we are as strong in loving relationship as we are in the words we wield.
Are you a Christian who knows a fellow believer who is caught up in an ongoing sin that he or she is justifying for some reason? This person needs your love, prayers, support, and biblical truth regarding his or her behavior (Gal. 6:1). Don’t expect a Christian who is struggling with such a sin to easily be able to “just stop it.” It could take a while, maybe even years or a lifetime. Fighting sin is difficult—indeed, it is the biggest battle any of us will ever face in this life. This is why every Christian needs the oversight of a faithful church and the fellowship of the saints, for God did not mean for any of us to face this battle alone.
Are you a Christian who knows a non-Christian who is caught up in an ongoing sin? This person also needs your love, prayers, and support, but what he or she needs most of all is the truth about the glorious gospel of Christ. This person needs to know that we have all sinned, that we have all fallen short, that we all need a savior (John 1:12—13; Rom. 3:23–24). He or she needs your committed friendship—and your resoluteness to uphold your values out of love. This person needs a lifeline (namely, you) to the good news that a Savior has come because of humanity’s sin. You can offer godly counsel as the opportunity arises, but it is not your job to point out a nonbeliever’s specific sins. It is your job to love nonbelievers and share Christ with them (1 Pet. 3:15).
Redefining biblical doctrine to suit what we personally think is loving, gracious, or kind is wrong. Christians are called to love others. They are also called to kill sin in their lives and support fellow believers in godliness with all gentleness and compassion, not to give in to sin and pronounce it as good.
Le Ann Trees is managing editor of Beautiful Christian Life.
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